MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A teenage girl charged with plotting and pulling off the murder of her longtime best friend will be tried as an adult in a West Virginia court, the prosecutor in charge announced late Wednesday.
Shelia Eddy's case was moved from juvenile to adult court in a closed-door hearing in Monongalia County Circuit Court. After months of silence and secrecy, Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown announced in a one-paragraph press release that all further proceedings will be held in open court.
Eddy is charged along with classmate, 16-year-old Rachel Shoaf, with luring Skylar Neese out of her Star City home last summer, driving her into the Pennsylvania woods and stabbing her to death at an agreed-upon moment. The motive has never been revealed.
Shoaf has already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing. She told police the girls no longer wanted to be friends with Skylar, but the victim's parents believe there was more to it.
Prosecutors have said they plan to recommend a 20-year prison sentence for Shoaf and will oppose any move to have her sentenced as a juvenile. But she could get as many as 40 years under the law.
Shoaf's family issued a public apology but has made no further statements.
Dave Neese said the public identification of Eddy, whose name has long been known in the community, brings him no relief in his daughter's death. Nor does the prospect of sitting through a trial.
"I don't want to hear the grisly details of how Skylar was murdered," he said. "I don't want to hear how she screamed and cried. But I do want these girls to get what they deserve."
Skylar, a University High School honors student, slipped out the window of her ground-floor bedroom last July 6 and never came home.
Surveillance video showed her getting into a car at the end of her street in a quiet residential neighborhood near West Virginia University. With no sign of fear, no money and no contact lenses, she apparently expected to return.
For nearly nine months, her parents searched for her — initially with the help of Eddy, whom they had thought of like another daughter. Mary Neese said Eddy had even helped hand out flyers in their neighborhood.
The break in the case came Jan. 3, when Shoaf finally told investigators the truth — and where to find the body.
Skylar's remains were found hidden under branches in a secluded spot in Wayne Township, Pa., near the unincorporated West Virginia community of Macdale.
Shoaf told police they'd been unable to bury her.
The cold, calculating nature of the crime shocked the small town of Star City. The transcript from Shoaf's plea hearing shows that fellow students had their suspicions about the case, perhaps long before adults, chattering on social media about all three girls.
A few overheard a conversation between the suspects about the plot but waited to report it. The teenagers thought it was a joke, Ashdown told a judge on May 1, "but only later decided and believed it was all too true and all too prophetic."
"These are two twisted, sick individuals," Dave Neese said, "and they're exactly where they need to be."
Neese said he believes prosecutors have enough evidence to put Eddy "under the jail," but said Ashdown told him that Eddy has steadfastly refused to plead guilty.
"It seems like there should be some kind of closure, but it's really not," he said. "It kind of opens everything back up, and things had just started to quiet down for a little bit."
The family has tried to spare others their agony, persuading legislators to pass "Skylar's Law" earlier this year.
Under it, Amber Alerts are no longer limited to kidnappings in West Virginia. Even when authorities suspect a child is a runaway, as happened in Skylar's case, the information is turned over to Amber Alert officials.